Making Sense Of The Steelers’ Post-Cutdown Roster Moves

As has been the case for most seasons in recent memory, the Pittsburgh Steelers immediately began tweaking their initial 53-man roster the day after it was first assembled. Yesterday, they added two players off the waiver wire, in addition to releasing two players to accommodate them.

Somewhat unusually, neither of the cuts came at the same position as those occupied by the newest Steelers, which is usually the case. Clearly, the reasons for these additions went beyond merely one-for-one upgrading.

In addition to the two successful waiver claims, the Steelers also placed center Maurkice Pouncey on the short-term injured reserve list, and added back another lineman in order to accommodate the numbers loss there.

There have been plenty of questions about these moves since they were made, so it should present some value to offer an attempt at the logic behind the decisions. I hasten to add that I am offering an explanation, and not a justification for the moves, so please, don’t shoot the messenger.

The move to place Pouncey on IR obviously requires no explanation as he hopes to return around midseason from a fractured fibula. Nor was it particularly surprising that the Steelers brought back Doug Legursky after initially cutting him.

What was a bit odd was the fact that the Steelers cut him in the first place, rather than Chris Hubbard, who is by far the less experienced of the two, and who had a dreadful preseason.

But I would imagine that the team was more comfortable risking a player who was trying to integrate himself into a new system and who had just injured his hand the day before rather than a player who has been steadily in the organization for the past three seasons.

The Steelers likely had other options to bolster the roster outside of bringing back Legursky, who last played for the team in 2012. But that level of familiarity, given the relative closeness to the start of the season, is what likely helped lead them back to him.

Now, as to the two waiver claims, there is an obvious logic to both. The Steelers added running back Jordan Todman quite simply because they only had two running backs on the roster and they had personally seen him perform well.

The team also added Caushaud Lyons, an undrafted rookie defensive end, off waivers, who is regarded as a project. He recorded four tackles and a sack during the preseason in 101 snaps. With Stephon Tuitt still returning from an ankle injury, that may have played a role in the decision. His spot could be temporary, with either he or L.T. Walton being moved later to the practice squad.

Of course, the real concern that everybody has had was not with the additions, but rather the subtractions. Released were fourth- and sixth-round rookies, cornerback Doran Grant and outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo, respectively.

Let’s start off by making clear that each cut comes from a position of depth. The Steelers carried six cornerbacks and five outside linebackers on the 53-man roster before releasing Grant and Chickillo, which is on the high side for both positions.

While the team was obviously fond enough of both to keep on the 53-man roster initially, they felt that they were worth risking losing them because they were positions that they felt were insulated.

With Chickillo, in particular, the Steelers already have a fifth outside linebacker on the practice squad in Shayon Green. The team was deep at outside linebacker during the preseason. Should Chickillo clear waivers, he will displace Green on the practice squad. If not, they still have Green to develop.

With Grant, the Steelers do not actually have a substitution on the practice squad, as they elected not to sign Kevin Fogg, although that could change should Grant not clear waivers and subsequently be added to the practice squad.

Grant’s position increased in vulnerability after the Steelers added free agent Ross Cockrell on cut down day. Cockrell was also a fourth-round pick, but from the previous draft, and this decision reflects a preference for the taller cornerback.

Most important in these decisions was the fact that the team had enough bodies at cornerback and outside linebacker to risk losing them. There are a number of factors that must come into play in making personnel decisions, and relative depth by position is one of the most significant.

Make of this what you will, but this is surely the logic that led to the Steelers making these decisions. Either way, the world will not end, nor will it cause them, in all likelihood, to win or lose an extra game this season.

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